Ryuseitai are the first unit to take on Ensemble Stars!‘s album series. The talented quintet revisited old songs and brought to table some impressive solo performances in what was a overall strangely bland release.
The unit consists of Yuichi Jose, Koutaro Nishiyama, Yoshiki Nakajima, Takumi Watanabe and Anju Nitta.
Title: Ensemble Stars! Album Series Ryuseitai Label: Pony Canyon Release date: 07/03/18 Genre: J-Pop/Rock
01.夢ノ咲流星隊歌 02.天下無敵☆メテオレンジャー! 03.五色のShooting☆Star!!!!! 04.SUPER NOVA REVOLU5TAR 05.流星花火 06.アンリミテッド☆パワー!!!!! 07.GROWING STARRY DAYS 08.ALWAYS HERO!（performed by Yuichi Jose） 09.まりんぶるう・らんでぶう（performed by Koutaro Nishiyama） 10.IRON HEART TIGER!（performed by Yoshiki Nakajima） 11.真昼の残像（performed by Takumi Watanabe） 12.疾風迅雷 忍び道（performed by Anju Nitta）
Track by track analysis:
We kick off this release with the exciting pop-rock tune “Yume no Saki Ryuseitai uta“. The song relies on a big, hyped instrumental with heavy guitar riffs, fast paced snary drums and a noticeable bass line to amp up the listener. There are some synths on this instrumental, although they don’t take much spotlight away from the other elements, serving more to set an atmosphere or even add a rather late 90’s, early 00’s pop rock touch. The instrumental shows the unit’s passionate side with several chants section – that will work wonders on a live setting -, that welcome the listener to join in the fun. The vocal performances were fiery, matching the instrumental’s energy and mood. Although everyone didn’t have any issues with their performances, we feel like pointing out Takumi Watanabe and Yuichi Jose‘s performances, the ones that stood out the most on this song with their consistent mid-tones. Ryuseitai opens this album at full throttle, an exciting way to welcome the listener and introduce themselves. 4/5
For this track we have a slightly different approach in the instrumental. Synths take the lead, leaving the exciting guitar riffs, splashy drums and bass in the background, that is, of course in the intro and choruses. The verses shift the balance, with the electric guitars taking the spotlight in those quieter sections. The chorus is hyped as it is with most Ryuseitai‘s songs. The instrumental builds up perfectly to the chorus, in which the listener is surprised by an explosion of energy. “Tenka Muteki Meteoranger” even brings to the table the well loved melodic guitar solos, an essential element to hype up this performance. On the vocal end we find a group that is in completely synchronized. The choruses are as powerful and energizing thanks to the vocal performances. The only issue we have with this performance is that, once again, there are short drama sections in the middle of it, breaking a bit of the pacing of the song. 4/5
Changing the tone of this release, “Goushiki no Shooting☆Star!!!!!” focus more on a simpler, toned down pop-rock sound. If you’re thinking that this song strays away from Ryuseitai‘s trademark hyped hero driven rock music, don’t worry. There are several parts in the instrumental that still feel like something from Ryuseitai, even though guitars take a back seat for this song. We still find hyped guitar licks in the intro and solo guitar solos throughout this song. Aside from this the instrumental counts with sampled dubstep-ish drums and a synthesized bass line that help creating this danceable instrumental. The highlight on this instrumental is by far the bridge. The synth pads and guitar riffs blend perfectly with the solid vocal performances, creating what we consider one of the best sections on Ryuseitai‘s songs. Without all that fast paced, heavy guitar riff driven instrumentalization this song is left with more opportunities to shine. The vocals still have that fiery passion on them but are, just like the instrumental, toned down a lot, making this an easier song to listen to. With that being said, there is more emphasis on melodies and harmonizations than there is in other songs, making this performance and song, a nice change of pace. 4.5/5
04.SUPER NOVA REVOLU5TAR
[As previously reviewed] “SUPER NOVA REVOLU5TAR” brings to the table a youthful pop-rock sound that lends help from brass, strings and soothing synth pads to grab our attention. There are some sections of the song – mainly the pre-chorus – in which the instrumental shows some punk-rock influences but, for the most part, this song is more focused on their energetic pop-rock sound that has that “hero theme song” vibe. We didn’t find any major issues with the vocal performances. Taking into account that the group has some inexperienced singers on it, as well as those with higher ranges that could easily make this song sound completely different in tone if they took the front wheel, it was with Yuichi Jose and Yoshiki Nakajima that the unit found a middle ground. Exciting and fun song. 4/5
“Ryusei Hanabi” bring the matsuri vibe to you. This instrumental counts with a mix of traditional instruments – shakuhachi, taiko drums and shamisen – to perfectly capture the traditional Japanese summer festival vibe. Aside from the traditional instruments we find the trademark Ryuseitai‘s whole band sound, including washy drums, a noticeable bass line and enthusiastic guitar riffs. In the vocal department we find, first of all, chants included to hype this track as well as adding yet another traditional element to this performance. Aside from the chants, the listener will find a unit that is as energetic and upbeat as the instrumental itself. There’s a slight difference in the quality of some of the vocal performances but those are only noticeable if you’re being nitpicky. Playful and entertaining, “Ryusei Hanabi” is a solid addition to this release. 4/5
“Unlimited Power” brings Ryuseitai back to their hyped up rock tunes that seem to come straight from the soundtrack of a hero movie. Raging guitar riffs, uptempo sampled bassy drums and a lowkey bass line add an edge to their bright performance. We found the addition of strings to this instrumental, something fresh and well need, especially when Ryuseitai‘s songs don’t usually sound that different between themselves. The addition of strings also introduced some urgency and tension to this instrumental. As usual, expect an exciting guitar solo in the bridge and an uptempo, energetic chorus. The vocal performances are nothing out of the extraordinary, with all members delivering a comfortable performance. 4/5
07.GROWING STARRY DAYS
[As previously reviewed] Enveloped in a sweet bass line, “GROWING STARRY DAYS” is a laidback addition to this release. The instrumental resorts to bassy drums, a noticeable bass line, simple guitar riffs, and adding to this simple formula is a bright piano melody. This song shines before our eyes, its bright vibe was carefully crafted to put a smile on the listener’s face. In the vocal department, we find everyone approaching their parts in a completely different way. All embraced a sweeter, more comfortable singing tone that, in our opinion, made this song shine even more on this release. 5/5
The first solo song belongs to Yuichi Jose. With a rawer, punk-rock vibe, this instrumental relies on fast paced snary drums, raging guitar riffs and a highly noticeable bass line in the background. The instrumental has some tempo changes, especially between the verses and chorus. “ALWAYS HERO!” has slow paced verses that bring a classic rock organ melody into the mix. The chorus is faster, much thanks to the fast raging guitar riffs and drum work. This song does feature one solo, it goes the extra mile to deliver a thunderous double guitar solo and a bass solo, something that we weren’t expecting on this song. The vocal department counts with Yuichi Jose‘s consistent mid-toned vocals. Jose’s vocals fit best with this kind of raw approach to Ryuseitai’s sound. His performance lacked a bit of power, especially when the instrumental is as hyped as it is. “ALWAYS HERO!” is an interesting take on the passionate heart of Ryuseitai‘s leader. 4/5
And the first surprised on this album belongs to Kanata Shinkai’s “Marinburou Randebou“. Forget any hyped up rock instrumentals, this instrumental is the well needed polar opposite in this release. Quiet, gentle and slow paced, this instrumental mixes jazz with R&B to create a dreamy experience for the listener. Pizzicato strings, blues-y guitar licks, soothing synth pads and simple, slow paced washy drums help bringing to life this laidback instrumental. Koutaro Nishiyama‘s performance was comfortable and sweet, feeling almost like a lullaby, perfect to listen to if you need something to relax you after a day’s work or just want to revisit the summer evening vibe that this song exudes. Fantastic performance demonstrating that sometimes, less is more. 5/5
10.IRON HEART TIGER!
Raging guitars and bass driven drums lead the way for “IRON HEART TIGER!“, song performed by Tetora Nagumo. The song relies heavily on its edgy guitar riffs and powerful drums to impress the listener. Out of all solo songs, this is the most hyped up. Everything about this instrumental was carefully crafted in order to grab the listener’s attention. The instrumental has a rather predictable progression, especially its chorus. As soon as the chorus kicked in we could easily predict the vocals’ direction and the way the guitars would end up being used. Regardless, this instrumental has what we consider to be the best guitar solo on this album and is still an entertaining listen. On the vocal end we find Yoshiki Nakajima delivering a fiery performance. As everyone might have noticed, Nakajima is not singing with his natural singing tone, as a matter of fact, he is unrecognizable in Ryuseitai but his performance, even in with a completely different tone and in a different key is still as cool and consistent as ever. Solid performance in burning rock tune. 4.5/5
Grab your tissues, we’re in for an heartbreaking ballad by none other than one of the most popular members on Ryuseitai, Midori Takamine. Slowly and in crescendo, strings make their gentle entrance, joining the dramatic, slow paced piano melody playing the background, and minimalistic bass line. The verses in “Mahiru no Zanzo” are quiet, relying on acoustic guitars, simple, hi-hat driven drums and fickle strings. The chorus explodes in emotion, without raising too much the tension or exaggerating the instrumentalization. This instrumental is bound to deal some damage. On the vocal end we weren’t expecting such a performance from Takumi Watanabe. Filled with emotion, leaving a melancholic trace with each line, his performance aims to put your emotions in turmoil. He grasped well the underlying feelings in the lyrics and delivered an heartbreaking performing, even if he didn’t went out of his way to add flourishes or the sort. This is, hands down, the best performance on this release. There’s no way Watanabe‘s performance or the instrumental won’t resonate with the listener. Simply beautiful. 5/5
Wrapping up this release and completely changing gears to an upbeat song, we find Shinobu Sengoku’s “Shippujinrai Shinobi Michi“. Traditional instrumentalization – mainly shakuhachi and shamisen – blend with synths, sampled drums and guitar riffs for what is a simple instrumental. The verses are rather uneventful and it’s in the chorus that the listener is presented with something truly entertaining. Anju Nitta‘s performance is nothing out of extraordinary and isn’t meant to be taken seriously, at least that’s the idea we get after way too many onomatopoeia in the lyrics. Especially those parts with the “nin nin“, among other ninja references and sounds made the whole song sound ridiculous. Of course this might not bother most people but for us it’s a big no. After several top performances we were expecting Nitta‘s to be a nice closing theme. It wasn’t. Not even close. 3/5
Ryuseitai brought back several well known tunes, all strictly following one single concept and theme: heroes.
The unit had some ups and downs on this album, some of those belonged to old songs, others were brought in with some of the new ones. In the most part there was consistency in the vocals and they managed to do the odd thing of sticking to only one theme from start to finish – as unit -, with that making this album a collection of similar songs. There was seldom a unit song that strayed a bit away from the theme and delivered something fresh and unique to the listener. We felt that this, although praised by many of their fans as being “consistent” is a major flaw that made this album sound too bland and uneventful at times. Regardless of how the album feels as a whole, individually each song has its charm, even if there’s little difference between the instrumentals and vocal direction between them.
This album is sort of saved by two solo performances. That’s where we found some unexpected performances that strayed away from the simple exciting and upbeat pop-rock sound that has been a staple in their repertoire.
“Marinburou Randebou” by Koutaro Nishiyama and “Mahiru no Zanzo” by Takumi Watanabe are the solo performances highlights. All two songs have completely different approaches and exude unique emotions. “Marinburou Randebou” attracts the listener with a lullaby-ish performance and a fresh mix between jazz and R&B. If the instrumental wasn’t enough to impress us, Nishiyama‘s performance was beyond anything we were expecting. His vocals sounded stable and his performance was comfortable, something that helped the song’s quiet, relaxing vibe come to life.
Takumi Watanabe‘s “Mahiru no Zanzo” is best song on this album and we’d even dare to rank it as the best song on Ryuseitai’s repertoire. It was a nice change of pace to add such a polarizing, heartbreaking song to an album filled with “hero” inspired tunes. At times it seemed that Watanabe‘s vocals were on the verge of breaking, crying for help, ultimately enhancing his already highly emotional performance. If there’s a song we’d recommend from this release, this would be it.
Ryuseitai‘s album primes in consistency but that consistency itself, when taken to extremes like how it ended up happening, is more damaging than you’d expect. Song after song it all sounded way too familiar. If it wasn’t for the solo performances this album wouldn’t have anything fresh and unique to showcase to Ryuseitai’s fans. Of course, we’re talking about this album as a whole. Individually, there is hardly any issues with their songs, filled with exciting guitar riffs and solos, fast paced drums and hyped choruses. But since we’re reviewing an album and not a single we need to point this out: one or two songs sounding similar in a release is no issue, now 7 out of 12 songs in one album sounding alike? That sounds like consistency taken to extremes with some underlying laziness in the mix.
Ryuseitai has the potential to do more and better. It’s possible to keep their “hero” concept without making every song sound like a copy of an old one. And it’s also possible to put these 5 amazing and unique vocals doing something more than chants or delivering simple performances without any flair. In the end, Ryuseitai‘s take on Ensemble Stars!‘s album series is solid but lacks something fresh and engaging besides only two truly great solo songs and a brilliant group song.
“Ensemble Stars! Album Series Ryuseitai” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.